The Canadian Globe & Mail is reporting that a deal is done to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg to become, presumably, the Winnipeg Jets. There are other conflicting reports saying that it isn't a done deal (you can Google them). Canadians will undoubtedly rejoice, and people in Montreal may flip police cars this weekend, not because the Jets are coming back, but just because. Many NHL fans in the US will also rejoice, as the league and its fans have never really embraced the idea of NHL teams in the sunbelt. This could be the first step in correcting what many believe is a big error by the NHL.
But there will be at least one place where there will be no rejoicing, and that's GTOG. You can argue, and probably persuade us, that the NHL should never have expanded/relocated to many of the markets that it is currently in -- Phoenix, Atlanta, and Miami to name a few. But once the league makes that decision, and once a team opens up shop in a new city, something good happens. New people are exposed to hockey. New fans are created. Kids, who otherwise would have never been exposed to the game, start signing up for ice hockey leagues. People who are transplants from other cities start watching.
You can make fun of markets like Atlanta for hockey, and we often do. But we never would root for those teams to be relocated, because, if memory serves us correctly, Pittsburgh was on the chopping block not too long ago. And, if you're being honest with yourself, the only reason the Pens are still in Pittsburgh is because the team tanked a bunch of games in 1984 so they could draft Mario. Otherwise? Don't even want to think about it.
You can justify the NHL's desire to have a team in Winnipeg, and, if you have to pick from an existing team, the Thrashers are as good of a choice as anyone. We're happy for Winnipeg, just the same way we felt bad for them in 1996.
But do yourself a favor and don't "blame" Thrashers' fans. It's not the fault of the Atlanta fans who did go to the games, who did buy the hideous jerseys, and who did watch the team on TV. That's who GTOG feels bad for.
A final thought to put things in perspective. There is no doubt that the Thrashers' attendance was a problem; after all, they only averaged 13,469 per game this season. But if that makes Atlanta an awful hockey market, what does that make Pittsburgh, where the 2003-04 Pens averaged 11,877?
If the move happens, congratulations to Winnipeg.
But our thoughts are in Atlanta.